Read Judgment: United Bank of India V. Bachan Prasad Lall

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, February 14, 2022: While considering an appeal relating to fraudulent credit transfers made by a bank employee to fake accounts and manipulation of bank records, the Supreme Court has opined that merely because the employee stood superannuated, will not absolve him from the charge of misappropriation of funds which he had committed in discharge of his duties, and looking into the nature of misconduct which he had committed, he was not entitled for any indulgence.

A Division Bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Abhay S. Oka observed that a bank employee always holds the position of trust where honesty and integrity are the sine qua non, but it would never be advisable to deal with such matters leniently. 

Going by the background of the case, Bachan Prasad (Respondent – employee) joined the service as a Clerk-cum-Typist in 1973. While in service, he committed serious irregularities in discharge of his duties and was placed under suspension. He was later served with the charge-sheet along with the statement of allegation. After conducting a disciplinary inquiry, the inquiry officer found the charges proved. The respondent was thus dismissed from service. The Tribunal, after taking into consideration the record of the domestic inquiry, finally arrived at the conclusion that the inquiry was fair and proper and the charges stood proved. 

However, the Tribunal observed that the punishment awarded to the employee of dismissal was not commensurate with the charge leveled against him and accordingly substituted the punishment of dismissal with an order of reinstatement after lowering down two stages in his basic salary that he was getting at the time of his dismissal. 

The High Court was not inclined to interfere despite the fact that the respondent was found guilty, after regular inquiry been held for misappropriation of funds and further observed that there should not be any compassion in the judicial proceedings which should be shown to the delinquent who commits such nature of fraud in discharge of his duties. 

After considering the submissions, the Top Court found that the nature of allegation against the respondent employee was of fraudulently preparing nine credit transfer vouchers on various dates on the pretext of payment of interest towards fixed deposits and crediting the whole amount to one saving account opened in the name of one fake account. 

In order to adjust the said amount, the respondent manipulated the other book records of the Bank using forged signatures, added the Court. 

Speaking for the Bench, Justice Rastogi noted that after such nature of allegations stood proved, the disciplinary authority, after taking into consideration the record of inquiry and the post held by the respondent employee, punished him with the penalty of dismissal from service.

The finding of guilt recorded by the inquiry officer in his report was confirmed at all later stages by the disciplinary/appellate authority and even after judicial scrutiny by the Division Bench in the impugned judgment but still refrained from interference on the premise that the employee had superannuated in the year 2007, added the Bench. 

Therefore, looking into seriousness of the nature of allegations levelled against the respondent employee, the Apex Court concluded that the punishment of dismissal inflicted upon him in no manner could be said to be shockingly disproportionate which would have required to be interfered with by the Tribunal in exercise of its power u/s 11A of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

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